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photo of Dougherty Family College graduates

Making the Impossible Possible

Dougherty Family College

Dougherty Family College is turning the traditional model of higher education on its head. This groundbreaking college was created to remove financial barriers that could prevent students from achieving their goals of attaining four-year degrees. While maintaining the same standard of excellence as St. Thomas' four-year program, Dougherty Family College is making a college education affordable and accessible for driven, promising students who demonstrate high financial need.

Minnesota ranks fourth in the U.S. for jobs requiring a four-year degree, making a college education more valuable than ever for our workforce. Dougherty Family College equips students with the financial, academic, and social supports they need to earn their associate's degree in liberal arts.

Beyond the classroom, our Professional Internship Program affords students the opportunity to develop professional skills and real-world experience with exposure to different industries and careers. It's the first step on their way to reaching their potential and ultimately earning a four-year degree at the University of St. Thomas or another college of their choice.


Emily Wingfield

Senior Director of External and Corporate Relations, Dougherty Family College and School of Education
Phone Number
(651) 962-8014
Students of Color
High Schools Represented
First-generation college students

The Impact of Your Philanthropy

"Dougherty Family College was created because something different was needed in the Twin Cities. We dreamed big, carving a truly unique pathway for promising young people to not simply attend college, but to believe in themselves and achieve success.

The spring, we celebrated our fifth graduating class and I'm proud to say the Dougherty Difference is not only working—it is thriving in a measurable way."

Dr. Buffy Smith
Dean and Frey Endowed Chair, Dougherty Family College

I wanted to attend DFC because paying for college was always a concern to me. I’ve always thought about the idea of going to college, and DFC made that happen for me. I developed discipline, time management skills and perseverance.

Jasmin '20 AA
Photo of Dean Buffy Smith

Meet the Dean

"Closing the gap in higher education and the workforce is a bold mission that we embrace at Dougherty Family College. Our graduation rate is twice as high as the state and national community college graduation rates. In addition, our scholars gain valuable professional skills and experience by working at companies and organizations that make a meaningful impact in our society. Our DFC students are steadfast in their commitment to fulfilling their college dreams and becoming leaders who will transform the world. We are grateful for our friends and partners who continue to support our scholars on their educational and career journey. Your dedicated partnership and consistent engagement with our scholars matter and will have an impact in their lives and in our communities for generations to come."

- Buffy Smith, Ph.D., Dean, and Eugene and Mary Frey Endowed Chair, Dougherty Family College

When I was first introduced to the Dougherty Family College program and met the young adults who were part of it, I actually saw myself in their faces. I saw the same hope that I had at their age; hope that someone would believe in me and my potential. Supporting DFC has given us an opportunity to cultivate future leaders and build an incredible pipeline to important new talent.

Greg Cunningham, Chief Diversity Officer, US Bank
DFC student discusses their experiences with St. Thomas

Providing Hope

For many students, including Brittany Martinez '23 AA, a college education was a dream that seemed too expensive to attain. "Because of the support here, and that someone believes I can go to college is what drives me to keep going," says Martinez. See how a Dougherty Family College education is changing lives every single day.

The Cohort Model

A key element of a Dougherty Family College experience gaining national attention is its cohort model. About 25 students take every class together, which creates a support system and community throughout the two-year program. They are motivated and encouraged by their peers to be the best that they can be. See how Dougherty Family College brings this concept to life.
2023 Dougherty Family College Constellation Fund overview video

An Investment in the Future

The Constellation Fund has chosen DFC as one of its grantees for its effectiveness and impact in fighting poverty. For every dollar invested with DFC, it calculates that the return in benefits that reduce poverty is $4.81. This video was shown at a recent Constellation Fund event that showcased DFC.

Areas of Need

DFC Tuition

Our top priority is keeping DFC affordable and accessible for the students who need it most. Academic scholarships for current and prospective students are the most effective way to provide students a pathway to a four-year degree. 

Wrap-around Supports

The cost of education is more than tuition. At DFC, we cover those outside costs by providing textbooks, laptops, public transportation passes and meal plans for students, most of whom travel from all over the metro area to come to class. Removing these barriers helps to ensure students can focus entirely on their classes. 

Continuation Scholarships

Graduating from DFC is just the beginning. Our goal is to help our scholars complete their four-year degree. We know that St. Thomas is more successful in graduating DFC students with their bachelor’s degree than any other college or university. With cost being the top reason students don’t complete their degree, we must provide scholarships for DFC grads wishing to continue at St. Thomas.